5 Best Online MBA Programs in California [2022]

Updated May 31, 2022 | OnlineMBA.com Staff

Are you ready to discover your MBA program?

California offers extensive higher education opportunities, including some of the best online MBA programs. More than 966,000 businesses call California home, highlighting many opportunities for graduates. MBA-holders possess the business acumen and management knowledge to qualify for a variety of lucrative business, management, and financial careers. One of the most versatile degrees, an MBA is valuable in nearly any industry.

Earning a business graduate degree opens the door to careers like human resources manager, training and development manager, and top executive. Students may also qualify for more specialized management positions in fields like information technology (IT) or finance, depending on their previous academic or professional experience.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects average job growth for business and financial occupations from 2020-30.

In this guide, we discuss considerations for earning an online MBA in California, how to choose a school, and career opportunities for graduates. Keep reading to discover the best online MBA programs in California.

Why Get an Online MBA in California?

Earning an online MBA in California takes time and money but delivers many benefits. Online MBA schools offer opportunities to develop business and management skills applicable to any industry. Graduates qualify for a variety of diverse careers and earn much higher annual salaries than the average worker in the United States.

High Salaries
MBA graduates qualify for careers that garner substantial salaries. For example, sales managers earn a median annual salary of $132,290, and compensation and benefits managers make $125,130 a year.
Broad Skill Set
Earning an online MBA develops a versatile, broadly applicable skill set. Students learn management, leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills in addition to general business knowledge.
Career Opportunities
California MBA programs prepare students for exciting, well-paid careers in business and finance, including top executive, human resources manager, and training and development manager.

Pursuing an online MBA program in California offers benefits not available in every state, including access to a large number of schools with online programs, excellent networking opportunities, and diverse career opportunities after graduation.

California boasts nearly 450 postsecondary institutions, more than any other state in the U.S. This includes prestigious private and public universities and online and in-person programs at a variety of price points. The state's experience offering high-quality distance education means that students can find a variety of online MBA programs in California. In 2020, about 55.3% of students in the state participated in online learning at least some of the time.

What California's Best MBA Programs Have in Common

Higher education institutions provide a variety of experiences and opportunities, each offering its own campus culture, course selections, resources, and ways to engage with the community. Even so, the top schools tend to share several common characteristics:

  • They are accredited. Institutions that have earned accreditation from a third-party agency are recognized for offering a superior standard of education. All of the top schools found on this list are accredited by one or more of the following bodies: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB); the Western Association for Schools and Colleges (WSCUC); and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE).
  • They are affordable. Students may be eligible for various forms of financial aid to assist with the costs of education. The FAFSA helps determine allocation of state and federal aid, and each college or university determines institutional aid.
  • They uphold academic excellence. Institutions with a student-focused approach to academics prioritize the student learning experience and quality of education. Colleges and universities with smaller class sizes, for example, tend to offer a more personalized student experience.
  • Their MBA programs are reputable and robust. A reputable and robust MBA program features selective admissions and impressive student outcomes. Considering the percentages of graduate degrees offered, online enrollment rates, acceptance rates, and graduation rates, our ranked schools demonstrate that they offer reputable and reliable MBA programs.

Online MBA Programs for You

Grow your career, leadership, and business acumen with an accredited online MBA program.

What To Expect From MBA Programs in California

Online MBA programs in California typically take two full-time years to complete and require 30-60 credits. Some schools offer accelerated one-year online MBAs, allowing degree-seekers to take more credits each semester and graduate sooner. Other universities maintain hybrid programs, enabling learners to complete some coursework online and some in person.

Costs for California MBA programs vary by type of school (public or private), format (online or on-campus), and tuition rate (in-state or out-of-state). Attending a public university and paying in-state tuition typically offers the most affordable route to an MBA.

Most business schools offer MBA concentrations like human resources management, strategic management, finance, and IT. MBA candidates typically take classes like marketing for managers, strategic management, the legal and ethical environment of business, and leading in organizations. Read on for more about what to expect from the best online MBA programs.

Admission Requirements for MBAs

Admission requirements for California MBA programs vary by school, but typically include a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college. Some universities require an undergraduate degree in business, but most accept any bachelor's degree as long as the applicant completes prerequisite foundational courses. Additional admission criteria may include a minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA, 1-5 years of relevant professional experience, and satisfactory GRE or GMAT scores.

The admissions process usually includes an online application, paying a fee, and submitting college transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, and a resume. Most programs also ask for a statement of purpose and writing sample. Applicants may need to complete an in-person or telephone interview. Different types of degree specializations typically do not change required prerequisites.

Specialized MBAs

California's online MBA programs offer concentrations that let students spend more time on a particular area of interest. Adding a concentration develops knowledge and skills that can help learners qualify for more specialized careers after graduation and stand out from general MBA holders. Students who want to keep their options open and gain the broadest skill set possible may decide to pursue a general MBA.

Specializations particularly relevant for California may include IT, social entrepreneurship, healthcare management, and strategic leadership.

Popular MBA Program Courses

The type and variety of classes available from online MBA programs in California varies by school. Most programs require core, elective/concentration, and capstone or project courses. A typical MBA curriculum focuses on advanced topics in business like management, accounting, ethics, and organizational behavior. Below, we describe some courses that most MBA programs offer.

This course focuses on ethical and legal issues in business settings. Class topics include dispute resolution, contracts, and employment relationships and the law. Enrollees learn how business professionals can meet legal and ethical requirements.
Students in this course explore the fundamental theories and practices of marketing for business professionals. Learning objectives include designing marketing campaigns in target markets, applying marketing tools, and understanding how businesses benefit from marketing efforts. Other topics include segmentation, pricing, branding, and promotion.
This class provides a foundation in strategic management theory and practice, focusing on process and value. Students explore organizational analysis, corporate governance, strategy formulation, and business analysis.
Learners in this course gain proficiency in using systems to organize business information and make managerial decisions. The course emphasizes upper-level managerial decisions. Topics include electronic commerce, management support technologies, IT architecture, and managing technology-driven change.

The MBA Capstone or Thesis

Many of California's online MBA programs require a master's capstone or thesis. These experiences serve as a culmination of the program, allowing students to apply their skills and knowledge to one cohesive project. A capstone usually lasts one semester, and may involve working with a group to solve a problem for a real-world business.

An MBA thesis is an independent intensive research project, formal paper, and presentation that typically takes one year to complete. Because of their focus on practical skills, most MBA programs require a capstone instead of a more research-intensive thesis.

MBA candidates who complete a capstone benefit from gaining extensive real-world professional experience from the businesses that operate in the state. Many business schools partner with local business leaders and organizations. Students who complete a capstone with a California business may find internship and job opportunities after graduation.

How Much Do MBAs Cost in California?

The cost of California MBA programs varies by school. Factors that affect prices include program format (online or on campus), school type (public or private), and tuition rate (in-state or out-of-state). MBA candidates typically find affordable programs by choosing public universities where they can pay in-state tuition.

Online MBA programs can offer savings by giving students the flexibility to work while in school and take out fewer loans. Many distance education programs also provide tuition discounts for out-of-state students, offer routes that let learners graduate more quickly, and include free online textbooks.

When estimating the cost of earning an MBA in California, prospective students should consider cost of living, which includes the price of essentials like housing, transportation, groceries, and utilities in comparison to the national average. One of the most expensive states, California reports a cost of living index score of 151.7, the third-highest in the United States.

Most business schools offer a variety of financing options, including scholarships, grants, loans, and fellowships. See the link below for more information about financial aid for MBA students.

Online MBA Programs for You

Grow your career, leadership, and business acumen with an accredited online MBA program.

What Jobs Can MBAs Get You?

Earning an MBA can open doors to new career opportunities and higher salaries in diverse sectors. The BLS reports that business and financial occupations earn a median annual salary of $72,250, significantly more than the national median for all jobs of $41,950. Many career paths open to MBA holders offer much more, with sales managers earning $132,290 a year and compensation and benefits managers earning $125,130 annually.

Other careers available to those with a master's in business administration include human resources manager, training and development manager, and top executive. Students who earn specialized MBAs in some areas, such as IT, qualify for additional careers. Below, we describe some potential careers for MBA graduates, including typical job duties, required education, job outlook, and median annual salary.

Human Resources Managers

Human resources managers find employment in nearly every industry, make high salaries, and can expect faster-than-average job growth. They oversee the administrative functions and staffing of their organizations. Frequent job duties include planning employee benefit programs, managing staffing processes, and advising management on human resources issues.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree required; some jobs require an MBA
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +9%
  • Median Annual Salary: $121,220

Compensation and Benefits Managers

One of the best paid occupations of MBA graduates, compensation and benefits managers manage plans for paying employees of the organizations they work at. They create their company's pay structure and benefit plan, manage outside partners like investment managers and benefits vendors, and prepare program budgets.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree required
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +4%
  • Median Annual Salary: $125,130

Training and Development Managers

Training and development managers work in almost every industry. They plan and oversee internal training programs for employees. Typical duties include assessing the need for training, creating budgets, reviewing training materials from vendors, and evaluating training programs. They may also supervise training staff. Some employers prefer training and development managers with industry certifications.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree required; some employers prefer a master's degree
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +11%
  • Median Annual Salary: $115,640

Top Executives

In addition to education, top executives usually need extensive professional experience. They create policies and strategies to help organizations meet their goals. Typical duties include finding ways to improve organizational performance, overseeing budgets, and analyzing financial data. Types of top executives include chief executive officer, school superintendent, and general manager.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree required; some large companies require an MBA
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +8%
  • Median Annual Salary: $107,680

Sales Managers

Sales managers oversee sales teams for their organizations. They analyze data, set sales goals, analyze statistics, and prepare budgets. Major employers include whole trade, retail trade, manufacturing, and professional services organizations. Most sales managers need 1-5 years of sales experience to qualify for management positions.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +7%
  • Median Annual Salary: $132,290

California's Top MBA Employers

Frequently ranked as one of the best places in the U.S. to do business and boasting the fifth-largest economy in the world, California is a great spot for recent MBA graduates to find work. Nearly every sector in the Golden State hires MBAs, but major employers include the tech, entertainment, tourism, and manufacturing industries.

MBA graduates find plentiful work in many of the state's major cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Diego. In particular, Silicon Valley offers huge opportunities for a variety of business occupations.

Business professionals in California work as human resources managers, top executives, sales managers, and training and development managers. Sales managers in California make significantly more than the national mean wage for this occupation, taking home an average annual wage of $137,000 as of May 2019. MBA students in California seeking high salaries may want to consider a specialization in sales management for this reason.

Below, we describe some of the best places for MBA-holders to work in California, including Apple, Google, and McKinsey and Company. This is just a small sampling of the hundreds of organizations in California that hire MBA graduates.

Top MBA Employers in California

McKinsey & Company

One of the most admired companies that hires MBAs, McKinsey & Company is a management consulting firm headquartered in New York with multiple offices throughout California. The company hires MBAs to offer strategic management services to government, corporations, and other groups.

Apple

A multinational tech industry giant founded in 1976, Apple creates consumer electronics, online services, and computer software. Some of the company's most popular products include the iPhone, Mac personal computer, and iPad. Apple hires MBA graduates to help with supply chain and procurement, human resources management, sales, and finance.

Google

Headquartered in Mountain View, California, Google is a multinational tech company that specializes in internet products and services and is best known for its search engine. MBA graduates use their finance and management skills to help Google in corporate marketing, product management, and product marketing.

Selecting Your California MBA Program

Our rankings list of the best online MBA programs in California is a great starting point, but most prospective students benefit from considering a variety of other factors before choosing a school. Think about the following criteria to help you make your decision.

Accreditation
Choosing an accredited online MBA is the best way to access financial aid, transfer credit to another institution, and qualify for professional certifications. Most MBA programs also hold separate programmatic accreditation from one of the following agencies: the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
Cost
Think about your budget and what you can afford for your MBA. Costs vary significantly depending on type of school, learning format, and residency status.
Concentrations
Research the available concentrations from your prospective MBA program to see if they reflect your personal interests or career goals.
Program Length
How long do you want to spend in business school? If you aim to finish your degree as quickly as possible, look for accelerated online MBA programs.
University Resources
Look for student support like a career development office, access to library services, IT assistance, and tutoring.

Why You Should Consider Online MBA Schools in California

Online MBA programs in California offer convenience, flexibility, and affordability. Unlike traditional on-campus business schools, which require students to be in a physical classroom at a specific time, most distance education programs offer asynchronous courses. This means learners can fit school around jobs, family responsibilities, and other personal obligations. Enrollees can log on at their convenience to attend virtual lectures, participate in discussion boards, and submit assignments.

Online MBA programs also can cost less, featuring tuition discounts for out-of-state students, savings on some campus fees, and free online textbooks. Distance learners avoid the cost of on-campus housing or commuting and may be able to graduate with less debt, since they can usually continue working more easily than students attending class in person.

When deciding if you should choose an online MBA program, consider factors like your personal style of learning, budget, schedule, and academic goals. Distance education works very well for a diverse group of learners, but some people prefer a more traditional college experience. You can also consider online MBA programs in other neighboring states.

Online MBA Programs In Nearby States

The Top Five Online MBA Programs in California

Explore our ranking of the top five online MBA programs for 2022. Review courses, specializations, and tuition for each degree program.

#1

University of Southern California

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 92%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Southern California is the oldest private research institution in the state. The university was founded in 1880 by Robert Widney. USC is home to approximately  49,000 students on its 229 acre campus near downtown Los Angeles. 

USC Marshall School of Business

The University of Southern California offers an Online Master of Business Administration degree program. The program includes the study of real-world scenarios and aims to enhance the skills of future executive level business leaders. Full-time students can complete the online program in two years, but there’s also a part-time option designed for working professionals. 

The course is a hybrid online program with synchronous classes and in-person requirements such as clinics, worships, and other face-to-face sessions on campus. Students must stay on campus for seven days at the beginning of the first semester. 

USCs MBA Specializations

Accounting | Business Analytics |  Business Education | Business of Creative Industries | Business of Entertainment (Graduate Certificate)  |  Entrepreneurship  | Finance and Business Economics  | Information Systems  | Strategic Management Consulting  | Marketing  | Operations Management  |  Supply Chain Management  |  Sustainability  |  Society and Business | Technology Development and E-Business

Applying to USC

Admission requirements include an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university and two years of work experience. Applicants need to also submit official transcripts, an essay, a resume, and three letters of recommendation. GMAT/GRE waivers are available

Program at a Glance 

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WASC) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Tuition: $59,260/term for full-time students
  • Required Credits: 24 units (eight 3-unit classes) 
  • Program Length: 2 years for full-time students  | 1 year fast-track program available 
  • Delivery Format: hybrid (some online courses and in person requirements), synchronous online classes
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#2

California Institute of Advanced Management

School Information
Location Alhambra, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The California Institute of Advanced Management, an independent, non-profit graduate school, is in southern California, in the city of Alhambra. Founder Peter F. Drucker's aspiration was to employ the philosophy of management as a liberal art (MLA). The university enrolls approximately 200 students each year. 

California Institute of Advanced Management

The MBA in executive management offers a concentration in business analytics. Most business organizations today gather large amounts of business data. The MBA program prepares graduates to pursue work solving modern-day business problems.

The curriculum emphasizes data-based tools, consulting, and business services to find business solutions through analysis and statistical modeling. The program focuses on industries such as accounting, marketing, finance, and healthcare.  

The online program is designed as a fast-track degree, which can be completed in 18 months. 

CIAM's MBA Specializations

Available MBA specializations offered through this program include Database for Business Analytics | Applied Probability and Statistics in Data Analytics | Advanced Analytics for Business

Applying to CIAM

Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and one year of professional organizational experience (a waiver can be requested). Applicants must also submit official transcripts. 

CIAM considers work experience, school performance, and extracurricular activities, in addition to GRE standardized test scores for admissions decisions. 

Program at a Glance 

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WASC) 
  • Tuition: $667 per credit hour 
  • Required Credits: 36
  • Program Length: 18 months for full-time students
  • Delivery Format: Hybrid format (including 15-week courses that meet in-person every 6-8 weeks)
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#3

Northcentral University

School Information
Location La Jolla, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

A private institution, Northcentral University, in La Jolla, California, was founded in 1930. The university has a total yearly undergraduate enrollment of approximately 1,000 students on its 9 acre urban campus. The institution uses a semester-based academic schedule. 

NCU School of Business

NCU offers an online master of business administration. The program teaches leadership skills to students seeking executive management positions in business, nonprofits, and government agencies. Students learn about evaluation of organizations, global business leadership, and financial problem solving. 

The curriculum focuses on the development of effective business solutions, managing change within organizations, evaluating global trends, and more. The MBA program can be customized to specific career goals with many specializations. 

NCU's MBA Specializations

Homeland Security | Human Resources | Global Business| Virtual Organization Management | Information Technology | Strategic Marketing | Project Management | Entrepreneurship | Financial Management | Healthcare Administration 

Applying to NCU

Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited program.  

Students can complete the admission requirements and start the MBA program within 30 days. Transfer credits with a 3.0 or higher are limited to six master's level credits.

Program at a Glance 

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WASC) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Tuition: $1,021/credit 
  • Required Credits: 30
  • Program Length:16 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online, synchronous and asynchronous
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#4

California State University-San Bernardino

School Information
Location San Bernardino, California
Admission Rate 69%
Graduation Rate 55%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 33% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Founded in 1962, California State University — San Bernardino is a public university. The institution has enrolled about 17,000 undergraduate students on its 400 acre campus. 

Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration (JHBC)

CSUSB offers a master of business administration online executives program for 

students with early to mid-career professional work experience. The program emphasizes theoretical knowledge and practical skills in business leadership. 

The curriculum includes courses such as advanced managerial communications, accounting for managerial decision making, and information systems and technology management. 

Experiential learning opportunities, such as an MBA bootcamp, internships, student clubs and organizations, and study abroad programs, are available. Students must complete the MBA bootcamp before they can begin second quarter courses. 

CSUSB's MBA Specializations

Accounting | Finance |  Information Management | Supply Chain Management | Management 

Applying to CSUSB

Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a cumulative 2.5 or higher GPA. Applicants need two years of professional work experience. They must submit a personal statement, resume, and one letter of recommendation. No GMAT/GRE scores are required

Program at a Glance 

  • School Type: Public 
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WASC) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Tuition: $1,200/unit 
  • Required Credits: 30 units (10 courses) 
  • Program Length: 18 months 
  • Delivery Format: 100% online 
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#5

Pepperdine University

School Information
Location Malibu, California
Admission Rate 32%
Graduation Rate 86%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Pepperdine University is located in Malibu, California. The university enrolls about  3,000 undergraduates each year on its 800-acre suburban campus and follows a semester-based academic schedule.

Pepperdine’s Graziadio Business School

Pepperdine's master of business administration online program offers weekly live courses and coursework that can be customized to fit professional working students’ busy schedules. 

The curriculum includes courses on strategic management, financial processes and systems, and business technology. Experiential learning opportunities include working in teams, pitching solutions to real-life businesses, and on-campus immersions on the Malibu campus.

Pepperdine offers a Career Services team aimed at providing career support to MBA students. Services offered include 1:1 career coaching, resume assistance, and virtual career workshops. 

Pepperdine's MBA Specializations

Business Analytics |  Digital Innovation and Information Systems |  Entrepreneurship |  Finance, Leadership and Managing |  Organizational Change |  Marketing |  Global Business 

Applying to Pepperdine

Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Students must submit official transcripts, a statement of purpose, a resume, and a $150 application fee (may request fee waiver). No GMAT/GRE test scores required. 

Program at a Glance 

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WASC) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Tuition: $1,930/unit
  • Required Credits: 52 units (15 courses + 1 immersion)
  • Program Length: 20 months (full time); 48 months (part time)
  • Delivery Format: Hybrid (online/on campus), synchronous 
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Online MBA Programs for You

Grow your career, leadership, and business acumen with an accredited online MBA program.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are online MBAs respected?

The vast majority of employers recognize the value of an online MBA. Many schools offer online and in-person MBA programs with an identical curriculum, faculty, and student resources and support.

How much does an MBA cost in California?

The cost of an online MBA in California varies by program and school type. Attending a public university and paying in-state tuition usually offers the most affordable option.

Is getting an MBA online worth it?

Earning an online MBA in California takes hard work, time, and money, but it can definitely pay off. Graduates qualify for a variety of lucrative, in-demand business and finance careers. Calculate your return on investment to figure out if getting an MBA is worth it to you.

Does California have online degrees?

There are many opportunities for distance education in the state, including a variety of online MBA schools in California.

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